“What was the worst date you’ve ever had?” my friend asked as we sat enjoying some wine after work one day. I had never really ‘dated’ much, so it took me a moment to think of a bad one. Then suddenly I rememberedÃ¢Â?Â¦..
It had sounded like an adventure. I was always ready for a new adventure when I was 20, and common sense didn’t always enter into my calculations. The guy seemed decent enough – after all, he was able to afford the exorbitant rates at the hotel where I worked. (Not that money guarantees quality in men, but it did lend him an air of respectability.) So when he told me he had chartered a helicopter to take him to a deserted island for the day, and asked if I’d join him, I jumped at it.
We were to fly to Woman Key, a small island about 12 miles west of Key West. There were no buildings there, just scrubby vegetation, mangroves, and long stretches of deserted beach. It sounded like paradise. The guy – I don’t even remember his name, so let’s call him Dudley – picked up a gourmet picnic for us at the most expensive deli in town. He bought things I had never heard of, and couldn’t even pronounce (I remember him explaining prosciutto to me at the counter – he was very excited about adding the fancy Italian ham to our picnic basket.)
From the deli we took a taxi out to the airport, where we met up with our helicopter pilot, Rob (I do remember his name!). Rob was from Hawaii, cute, blond, and very tan. He handed us headsets as we climbed aboard his pretty rainbow-striped helicopter, so we were able to talk during the flight. He fired up the engine, the rotors began spinning, and we were suddenly sucked up into the sunny blue skies. He gave us a tour of Key West, flying over the harbor as we made our way west toward Woman Key. It was the first time I had seen Key West from the air, and it was magnificent! I recognized all the streets, the hotel where I worked, and even several of the tiny boats bobbing in the harbor. The water varied from deep blue to light turquoise – it looked as if someone had painted the streaks of color with a giant paintbrush. The water was clear enough for us to see the coral on the patch reefs, and we saw several sea turtles swimming on the surface. Rob told us a bit about the history of a shipwreck as we passed over it, its skeleton hull just barely sticking up above the surface of the sea. He pointed out “Destroyer Key”, which was actually two very small islands created when a destroyer ship ran aground and they had to dredge to get it out. We flew over Ballast Key, with its pretty caretaker’s house, and before we knew it we were hovering over the beach at Woman Key.
After we landed and the rotors slowed to a stop, Rob opened up the doors. “See you later!” he called as we scrambled out. “Have fun!”
Dudley and I made our way up the beach as Rob fired up the helicopter and lifted quickly into the air behind us. Dudley didn’t really seem like the beach type, or even an outdoor type at all. He was kind of doughy around the middle, and pasty white. He gingerly picked his way through beach debris as he trundled along, avoiding anything that might poke his tender feet.
We were completely alone for the first time, and it already felt awkward. We talked a bit about his work – something in toy manufacturing, if I remember correctly. It sounded boring. We talked about my life, and how I’d come to the Keys from Colorado earlier that year. That wasn’t much more interesting, even to me. I began spreading out the picnic, hoping that would provide some distraction, at least. But that’s when things took a turn for the worse. As we munched on our fancy imported lunch, Dudley decided for some reason to bring up as many controversial subjects as he could think of. We covered religion, abortion, and politics. We discussed our priorities in life, family, our morals and ethics. And it was as though he were baiting me on purpose – we disagreed about everything! A few times our conversation turned into a heated argument, which was not like me at all – I’m a very non-confrontational person by nature. I just couldn’t believe what a total boorish oaf this guy was turning out to be – he was the most narrow-minded, chauvinistic, bigoted person I’d ever metÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦..and I was trapped on a deserted island with him! How many hours till Rob returned??
I sat on a driftwood log and sulked quietly. Dudley came over to join me, and much to my disgust, he put a soft, flabby arm around me. “Is this okay?” he asked.
“NO!” I answered, throwing his arm off as I got up to wade in the shallow water. Jeez, after an hour of unpleasant arguing, he thinks it’s okay to get frisky??
“What would you say if I told you that Rob wasn’t really coming back till tomorrow?” he suddenly called with a sarcastic tone in his voice.
“I’d start SWIMMING,” I snarled, trying not to panic at the thought.
“Yep, I arranged it with him,” Dudley continued, sounding more menacing. “I wanted to spend the night out here with you. You’re stuck with me. All night. On a deserted island. Just the two of usÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦” I wasn’t looking at his face, but I was sure he was leering.
“Yeah, right,” I muttered, and continued my wading. I knew he couldn’t be serious, but then again, I didn’t really know this guy at allÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦.. No. He had to be kiddingÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦.right?
The next several hours passed in relative silence. I explored the beach on my own, keeping as much distance as possible between me and the nutcase who had brought me there. I sat in the sun, and kept my ears tuned toward the east – where I was hoping and praying that I’d hear the thumping sound of the returning helicopter.
Finally, about four hours after I’d first arrived on the island with Prince Not-So-Charming, I heard it. It was faint, but it was definitely the sound of a helicopter. I scooped up my things, and began running down the beach toward the flat grassy patch where I knew Rob would land. I had just rounded the corner when I saw the helicopter settling down gently onto the sand. I sped up as Rob waved merrily out the window.
“Wow,” he laughed, when the blades had stopped spinning, “I’ve never seen anyone so happy to see me!”
“You have no idea,” I said, as I turned to look over my shoulder at the oafish figure of Dudley lumbering slowly up the beach.
I climbed into the helicopter, clamped my headset on, and finally relaxed. The “adventure date from hell” was officially over.